The CEO of Ctrip, China’s leading travel agency, has predicted that China will resume international travel within around half a year.
Speaking at a forum on Thursday, December 9, Liang Jianzhang added that some other Asian countries would likely do the same within three months, as reported by Global Times.
Due to COVID-19, China’s borders have remained closed to most foreign nationals since March 2020. Those who enter the country from abroad must undergo centralized quarantine of up to 21 days, as well as a series of nucleic acid tests.
Liang’s comments may offer some reassurance to those longing for China to re-open its borders. However, the decision is unfortunately not in his hands.
For now, China has made clear that it will continue its ‘zero-COVID’ strategy. Respiratory disease expert Zhong Nanshan has stated a number of conditions must be met in order for China to return to normal. They are as follows:
The number of those fully vaccinated in China against COVID-19 must reach 80-85% of the total population. According to data from Reuters, China has administered over 2.6 billion vaccine doses, enough to have given two vaccine shots to around 93.1% of the population. However, the true percentage is lower because this is based purely on the total number of shots given. According to a National Health Commission press conference given on December 11, the total number of people in the Chinese mainland fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is 1.16 billion, around 82.9% of the population, at press time
The reproduction number, also known as the R number, must be around 1-1.5
The case fatality ratio (CFR) must be “controlled at 0.1%” (no details are given regarding the specific time period over which this figure is measured)
Authorities have recently made clear that the border between the Chinese mainland and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is likely to open soon.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam stated that plans to allow quarantine-free travel for those on both sides of the border would be put into place after December 19, the date of Hong Kong’s legislative council elections. This is despite Hong Kong recently reporting imported cases of the newly discovered omicron variant of COVID-19.
In a further development, Global Times reported that cross-border travel would resume with a quota of 1,000 people per day, a figure which would likely increase to 5,000 during the 2022 Spring Festival in February.
Opening up to Hong Kong is a first step. Opening up to international travel will likely come later.
Whether or not this happens within the next half a year as the Ctrip CEO has predicted remains to be seen.
[Cover image via Pixabay]